I’m writing this in a quiet moment in a busy weekend – it’s a holiday weekend here in the UK, so there’s a music festival to attend! So many bands, so little time but Fat Out Fest in Manchester is worth it! Boutique festivals are a labour of love. So many organisational details – the logistical quandaries, weighing up the balance between art and finance all come in to play. Curating bands and sounds that deserve to be heard must be such a buzz, and outside of festivals like this, the opportunity to see underground bands from the likes of Japan, Egypt and other far off places can be few and far between – even in a cosmopolitan city like Manchester. The best way to recognise the work of these festivals is by simply turning up and having fun. And Fat Out Fest is certainly fun!
Speaking of underground bands, here we go.
Parisian duo Sacre debuted earlier this year with the intergalactic single Gaia, which featured a falsetto-spike chorus and glistening hook over disco touches. On new track The Call, the pair build on those foundations with alternating male and female vocals, conjuring up a very sophisticated take on the French disco sound. You can hear the influence of Daft Punk in the song – it captures their laid back catchiness but goes for a for a more sensual and less dance oriented feel.
On their track Giant World, Ducks! Wear their influences very lightly. Taking cues from the likes of Massive Attack and Bonobo, the Australian duo (Lani Bagley and Craig Schuftan) use drone sounds and environmental samples – frogs, not ducks alas – to create a mesmerising and darkly chilled song.
Los Angeles based Joey creates a beautifully fragile vibe on Come Alive. It puts me in mind of De/Vision with its laid back and slightly pensive sounds combing to surround you in a sense of warmth. It gave me a pleasant happy/sad feeling, and that’s a hard trick to pull off in a song.
Örnsberg is a suburb in Stockholm and is also the name of the electro project of Johan Ragnarsson who is signed to Hybris Records. On Miami High he blends an odd but successful combination of the singalong hooks of Oasis and an arpeggio laden space synth sound. If the Gallagher brothers had been given synths and samplers instead of guitars, they might have sounded like this!
Off to New York and the bright pop sounds of Jon Prezant and his track Other Lover – it’s an upbeat song about losing love, wrapped up in a shiny pop package which a very catchy hook or two thrown in for good measure. For me it brings to mind the music of Alexander Bard and Bright Light, Bright Light; two very different acts and yet still good comparisons.
Vancouver based Lionzgate take very disparate elements on Vicarious to make a track that is unique; with a booming electronic bass, progressions that are a collision between industrial dance and gothic metal, and some powerful vocals. It’s fair to say I don’t think I heard anything quite like this before. The band cite Tool and Pink Floyd as influences but their sound is very much their own.
Zola Blood press all the right buttons for me with Nothing. The vocals live in a sweet spot between the commercial soul of Sam Smith and the fragile beauty on Anohni, while musically the track draws from electronic pop, techno and ambient soundscapes, giving the song a driving yet not overwhelming musical backbone. Nothing is from the band’s upcoming album Infinite Games which on this evidence, will be worth checking out!
There’s got to be at least one Swedish track on the playlist each week and this time round it’s Super Heroes by Ingrid Witt. It shamelessly riffs on PC music, bubblegum Scandi-pop and uses that frothy mix to deliver a message of positivity and being true to yourself. It’s a really infectious feel good number that brought a smile to my face!
Minneapolis based duo The Prams describe their sound as ‘vibey-folk’ but on Somebody Else they’ve successfully merged their folk roots with electronic overtones to create a beguiling and unique sound that layers their harmonies over a very chilled and dreamy sound.
Last up is Magdalena Bay, the pop duo comprises Mica Tenenbaum (songwriting and vocals) and Matthew Lewin (songwriting and production). We’ve featured them before, we’re big fans and on Set Me Off they’ve come up with another gem. A witty blend of Prefab Sprout and Madonna, it’s pure pop with an edge!
See you next time.